Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2017 Contents A6 news
guardian.co.tt Sunday, February 26, 2017
Chalkdust: 75 can’t go into 14
During the Calypso Fiesta
competition held last week Sat-
urday, social media was abuzz
with one line in particular. That
line was “75 can’t go into 14”.
It was a line that featured in the
calypso of veteran Calypsonian Dr
Hollis Liverpool better known by his
sobriquet Chalkdust entitled Learn
from Arithmetic, which addressed
the issue of child marriage in this
This year, “Chalkie” celebrates his
50th year as a calypsonian.
It has been a long and successful
career for “Chalkie” who is current-
ly tied with Slinger Francisco also
known as the “Mighty Sparrow” for
the most Calypso Monarch wins in
Both Chalkdust and Sparrow have
eight wins each.
Liverpool is carded to again take
the Big Stage at the Calypso Mon-
arch final on Dimanche Gras night
tonight in search of a record breaking
Earlier this week, Sunday Guard-
ian sat down with Liverpool.
Q: How did you get involved
A: Well first as a boy I used to hear
calypso on the airwaves from in the
parlours and cafés in Belmont and I
just liked the calypso.
And then I was a school boy in St
Mary’s (College), where I am now a
distinguished son, but in those days
you could not sing calypso in school
etcetera but I used to compose little
calypsoes for Intercol so that is how
And then I went to (Teachers)
Training College where I officially
began to sing calypsoes
So when you actually attended
Training College that is where
you came up with the sobriquet
Chalkdust to go with the concept
Correct, but not only that.
Chalkdust was also a book written
by one of my lecturers, De Wilton
Rogers. He taught us sociology and
he was a very good teacher. He wrote
a book called Chalkdust about the
problems of teaching in a denomi-
national school and I used the name
because I identified with the book
at the time
Calypso for me is the ability
to take a difficult topic and deal
with it in a creative manner and
one of the perfect examples of
that this year is your calypso
Learn from Arithmetic. So how
did the creation of that song
Well, that came about because
of the calypso tradition, which you
rightly said is how we entertain peo-
ple but at the same time let people
see issues and understand important
things in the country.
So all the calypsonians in the past,
what they would do as the mouth-
piece of the people is they would take
issues and sing on them.
But you can’t sing on the issues
like a journalist, you have to spin the
ball, so you have to bowl off breaks
and leg breaks and use satire and all
If you listen to early calypsoes that
is what they did. They used a lot of
Like one fella was singing about
George Weekes and sang ‘two weeks,
two weeks I ain’t get no food’. So I
simply copied them.
All the great calypsonians have
done that. When Sparrow sang for
example London Bridge is falling
down, you understood that London
is no longer the great power that she
was in the 19th century.
This is the art form and what I
am doing is simply following the
You won your first Calypso
Monarch title in 1976 and in
2017 you are still a strong con-
tender for the title. To what do
you attribute your longevity and
In the art form what I have always
found is that you get many calypso-
nians getting a tune and they rise
and next four, five years you cannot
hear them again.
The great calypsonians—Black
Stalin, Valentino, Lord Relator—
you sure to get a good calypso every
year because they understand the art
form and they go to the tent and sing
a calypso and if it does not go down
well, they go back and make another
one or they will change the lines or
the verses because they always have
a good song.
Like Sparrow and Ras Shorty I
always have a good song.
So what I do is I simply make
songs, I may make four or five,
sometimes I would call a friend
and ask them ‘what you think of
I don’t make a whole calypso, I
make a verse and when you sing it
you will know whether it is good or
I try to keep the standards. Good
calypsonians keep their standards.
My standard is that I have the most
appearances in the Grand Stand (Ca-
lypso Monarch final) and I have the
most appearances in the semifinal.
This is my 50th year and I have the
most appearances and what I try to
do is maintain the standard.
When you compose for yourself
you are able to maintain the standard
because when you don’t compose for
yourself, you cannot maintain the
standards because you are depend-
ent on somebody else and singing
somebody else’s values and you are
singing what other people would like
History is going to be kind to
people who write their own songs
because they are leaving footprints
on the sands of time.
You have mentioned Sparrow
and the both of you are currently
tied for Calypso Monarch wins.
What does a 9th Calypso Mon-
arch win in your 50th year of
Calypso mean to you?
Well, if the God Lord permits, it
would be a milestone for me in my
50th year. I didn’t want to break
I told him so a few years ago be-
cause Sparrow has done so much.
Dr Hollis Liverpool aka Chalkdust
Continues on Page A7
“I try to keep the standards.
Good calypsonians keep
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